How to Make Dulce de Leche

This is a post about how to NOT make dulce de leche and the good alternatives for this sweet treat. I believe everybody already heard about BPA, since much has been talked about baby bottles. As you may know, BPA, unfortunately among many other things, is present as well in canned foods, like beans, tuna, infant formulas and milk products, including sweetened condensed milk – the one I want to highlight here.

I decided to write this post because I keep seeing fellow bloggers recommending to boil the condensed milk can to make dulce de leche. And I want to say: Please stop! Update your posts, do not tell people to do this. This method it may have been used in the past, before people were aware of the BPA contamination. Some brands are not recommending this boiling method and some people may think it’s because of the risk of explosion, but making a mess in the kitchen and having some injury risks is nothing compared to the long-term health risk. Of course the chemical it’s already present in the cans. And while I keep wishing to see brands switch to glass containers (yes, I have to keep the positive-thinking) at least it’s important at this point to minimize the effects by not heating the cans. What it’s even worst if you boil the cans hours and hours.

This chemical is linked to neurobehavioral changes in offspring exposed in the womb, breast and prostate cancer, among other health effects. Europe is going BPA-free, at least for baby bottles. It’s already a good turning point that they voted to ban the estrogen-like chemical at the end of 2010, which means that by middle of this year all the European countries will have stopped manufacturing, selling or importing plastic baby bottles with BPA. It’s a good start that they didn’t give in to the powerful industrial-lobbying. It gives me some hope about a few decision-makers. It’s crazy to think that the companies began using BPA in metal can linings in the 1950s and 1960s, twenty years after the chemical was first understood to be toxic in the early 1930s. But what is not acceptable is that the Governments yield to lobbying pressures when it concerns the whole humanity health. Yes, I know, you can say I’m being a little naive as this is what politics is about and how things really work, etc, bla, bla, bla. So, what to think when you read this description of the US safety reviews?

  • The U.S. EPA established its generic safety standard for BPA (the reference dose, or RfD) in 1987, a decade before the BPA low-dose literature was established (EPA 1987).
  • The U.S. National Toxicology Program’s 2001 assessment, which found BPA safe at low doses, relied heavily on industry-sponsored studies showing no low-dose BPA effects (NTP 2001).
  • FDA published estimates of infant and adult BPA exposures 10 years ago. FDA makes this assertion even though the Agency has not yet established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for BPA, and has not even conducted the Agency’s standard, basic toxicology study to determine a safe dose for humans (FDA 2007).
  • More recently, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed “some concern” that BPA may alter the brain, behavior and prostate gland in children, both before and after birth.
  • The American Chemistry Council, which represents the plastics industry, maintains that BPA is safe.

You can read more about the BPA and its significant exposures in canned food here and here.

What can we do?

  • Avoid plastics with a #7 recycling code.
  • Choose baby bottles and cups labeled BPA-free.
  • Reduce use of canned foods and beverages, since can linings may contain BPA.

In the meantime, when you have to use condensed milk to make that awesome dulce de leche, at least use one of these methods below. (I know, if you’re still reading this post you might not consider this recipe anymore and think: why is she posting this in the food section, where all the recipes are here to be enjoyed? BTW, I also listed it in the Life category, so you can read it there and just come back here for the recipe. Yes, that’s how bad I am, sorry folks!)

Dulce de Leche

Preparation time: 1 minute (to open the can)
Cook time: 60 minutes

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Method in the stovetop:
Pour the sweetened condensed milk into top of double-boiler pan; cover. Place over boiling water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 60 minutes, or until thick and light caramel-colored. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth (it gets thicker as it cools).

Method in the oven:
Preheat oven to 425° F. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a flan mold with lid. Place in shallow pan (larger than the mold obviously). Fill pan with hot water. Bake for 60 minutes, or until thick and light caramel-colored. Pour milk into small mixer bowl and whisk until smooth.

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5 Responses to How to Make Dulce de Leche

  1. Right on!!! Definitely an IMPORTANT IMPORTANT topic…and…also important to make sure we can still have our dulce de leche! Hmm…I just thought of at least 10 thing I would like to have with this.

  2. Alexis says:

    I heard a report an NPR that even stuff labeled as BPA-free still contains a lot of harmful chemicals, so I guess just avoiding plastics in general is the way to go.

  3. Donna says:

    I recall that once I boiled milk to condense it. It’s much easier to buy canned condensed milk, but after reading your post about BPA, I might just be boiling down milk to make it condensed in the future. Thanks for your enlightening post.

  4. Yum. I just want to stick my finger right into that picture and get a taste!

  5. That looks delicious! I’ve got to give it a try.

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